ISSN 1982-6621 On-line | ISSN 0102-4698 Impresso (até 2015)

Efficient mechanisms in the production of school failure of young blacks: stereotypes, silencing and invisibilization

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Efficient mechanisms in the production of school failure of young blacks: stereotypes, silencing and invisibilization

Rodrigo Ednilson de Jesus
Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Belo Horizonte – MG, Brasil

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The article aims to reflect on some of the efficient mechanisms in the production of school failure of black youth, from the results of the survey “The exclusion of young teenagers aged 15 to 17 attending high school in Brazil: challenges and prospects “. The survey was carried out in the years 2012 and 2013 in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Sao Paulo, Fortaleza and Belem. From the experiences reported by young teens, over in depth interviews conducted in São Paulo city, we have observed how the stereotyping of bodies seen as abnormal, together with silencing about racism, affect the self-image and self-esteem of young people, contributing directly and indirectly to the high dropout rates observed in this ethnic-racial group.

Keywords: Black youth; Racial stereotypes; School failure


Some authors of the sociology field (BLAU, DUNCAN, 1994; Sewel; HALLER; OHLENDORF 1970; VALLE SILVA, 1999; HENRIQUES, 2001; FERNANDES, 2005) have drawn attention to the fact that in the modern world, education has become an important explanation factor of the occupational scope of individuals, which, in turn, plays a central role in the analysis of the social stratification and social mobility. These authors have empirically demonstrated the importance of years of education for the definition of professional careers of individuals, noting that education is especially important for social stratification.

The study “The exclusion of young adolescents aged 15 to 17 years attending high school in Brazil: challenges and perspectives” allowed us to observe some of the interactions between socioeconomic and racial conditions and educational trajectories in the years 2012 and 2013. We observed, for example, how the reproduction dynamics of precarious conditions of school longevity, coupled with the persistence and naturalization of racial discrimination, helps us to better understand the low levels of schooling and the high rates of drop-out and repetition observed among young blacks and the poor .

Throughout this research, more than 200 young people (blacks, whites and yellows) were interviewed in twenty-three focus groups and 51 in-depth interviews in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Belém, Fortaleza and São Paulo. In each city , ten interviews and five focus groups were performed.1

Under this article, which aims to discuss some of the results of that research, especially the interconnections between the everyday processes of stereotyping, invisibilization and silencing, and local and national indicators of black dropout and repetition, we chose to select among the ten individual interviews2 held in São Paulo, five interviews held with young self declared black individuals.

We need to talk about social race

As a way to understand the scenario of educational inequality between whites and blacks in Brazil, as well as the discriminatory relations that daily impact the black population, I choose in this article to adopt the concept of race in its sociological perspective. Could appeal here to the excellent and contemporary Munanga definitions (2004) or Silverio (2006) about social race. However, I resort to Charles Wagley (1963). Wagley shows us, even in the 1960s, that the classification and ranking of Brazilian based on phenotypic characteristics can not be seen as a new phenomenon in Brazil that was invented from the advent of quota policies for the black population.

According to Wagley,

… in Latin America, in general, it was developed a concept of race based on phenotypic characteristics and socio-economic of the individual, rather than the implied genetic definition in the US hypodescent rule. From the south of the Rio Grande, race would be better defined as social race as it does not refer to a group of people who are judged to be similar in their essential nature socially defined, that results (in the fact that) race relations are more relations of social structure than a genetically engineered race (WAGLEY, 1963 apud SILVA, 1994, translated by us).

It must be reassured even today that Genetics, Ethnology and Anthropology share a certain consensus that biology is not pertinent (as was thought in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries) to use the concept of race as a means to identify and genetically differentiate human beings. This means that, from the genetic point of view, there are not enough differences between a person with darker skin and a person with lighter skin, which allows us to affirm that they are part of “different races.” Genetically, therefore, we are all belonging to the human race and the phenotypic differences among human populations that can be perceived today are the result of slow historical processes of climate adaptations. (JESUS; REIS, 2014)

However, if races do not exist from the genetic point of view, why do we refer, in everyday relations and in this text, to “racial” relations? Because although the concept of races has no biological relevance at all, race continues to be used, as a social and cultural construction, as an instrument of exclusion and oppression. In Brazil, phenotypic traits (skin pigmentation, hair type, lip shape, above all) are used as important elements of social assessment of individuals and, generally, become the main source of prejudice. So even genetics has certified that we are all human and biological races do not exist, some people and some groups, identified as belonging to a certain “inferior race”, are still victims of discrimination and exclusion because of their racial belonging .

In this sense, to claim that the Brazilian racism (TELLES, 2003) is expressed through a “institutionalized racism” does not necessarily mean that the discriminatory process in Brazil has been adopted legally or officially by the Brazilian State. It means, however, to affirm that racial hierarchical practices were instituted as a social practice and are updated on a daily basis, and it is precisely the perpetuation of these imaginaries about the supposed inferiority of the black race that has contributed to the production and reproduction of the discriminations and inequalities , either through the stereotyping of black people, either through the silencing or invisibilization of the positive references to the black population.

On the other hand, it is necessary to recognize another use of the notion of race, since to the extent that the Brazilian black movement triggered a redefinition of the concept of race, seeking to dissociate it from the stigmatizing notion used by the scientific racism of the late nineteenth century, and looking for link it to the dimensions of collective belonging, race has become understood also as an important marker of individual and collective identities of black men and women in Brazil and diaspora. Black men and women were not only those that, because they held more melanin accumulation in the skin, become prime targets of the practices of racism and racial discrimination, but those that had melanin accumulation or any other phenotypic characteristics associated with a determined collective, see and feel as part of a collective identity: the race or the black population.

The schooling of blacks and whites in the last decades in Brazil

The data presented by Valverde and Stocco (2011) in the early 2010s showed the persistence of racial inequality already identified by Henriques (2001) in the late 1990s. These data are revealing of the continuous asymmetry in the distribution of goods among individuals belonging to different racial groups throughout the history of Brazil.

Referring to the living conditions of the black population throughout the 1990s, based on analyzes made using the National Household Sample Survey ( PNAD) from 1992 to 1999, Henriques (2001) emphasized the size of the Brazilian racial inequalities. In refered study Henriques finds, and reinforces, the same discoveries of Pastore and Valle Silva (2000), “the intense Brazilian racial inequality associated with are usually subtle forms of racial discrimination, prevents the development of capabilities and social progress black population “(HENRIQUES, 2001: 5).

According to Henriques (idem), much of the inequality, both income and labor market inequality, can be explained by heterogeneity in Brazilian schooling. It is also noteworthy that, even with the increase in the supply of education by the Brazilian state throughout the 20th century, inequality in access to this good has not been overcome. In 1999, the average schooling of a young Brazilian 25 – year-old was 6 years of study, far from desired, considering that this is an appropriate education to a 13 year old, the average schooling of a young black of 25 years was 6.1 years, while it was 8.4 years of schooling for a young white of 25 years of age. “The intensity of racial discrimination, expressed in terms of formal schooling of Brazilian young adults, is extremely high, specially if we remember that it is 2.2 years difference in a society whose average education of adults is around 6 years “(Idem, 29).

According Henriques (ibidem), this was not the most disturbing component of the observed discrimination. According to him, besides the difference in terms of years of schooling, the data reveal the historical evolution and degree of crystallization of this discrimination. “We know that the average schooling of whites and blacks has increased steadily throughout the twentieth century. However, a 25-year-old white man has, on average, 2.3 more years of study than a young black man at the same age, and this intensity of racial discrimination is the same as that experienced by the parents of these young people – the same observed among their grandparents “ (Idem, 30).

The results obtained by Henriques, in regard to educational inequalities, join the conclusions reached by Nelson do Valle Silva and José Pastore (2000) and Carlos Hasenbalg (1990), also using as a basis the PNADs. These studies, which signaled the perpetuation of racial inequality in the process of social stratification and access to formal schooling in Brazil, contributed to the weakening of belief in the integrative power of economic development, expressed by Roger Bastide and Florestan Fernandes along the 1940s and 1950. In the perspective of Bastide and Fernandes (1959), the racial differences observed in the fields occupational, school and social representations tend to desappear over time, giving rise to the logics of typical differences of the capitalist societies. Thus, macrostructural changes would carry microstructural changes, interfering both alter-representation of blacks, as in the self-image of black Brazilians, including modifying their aspirations and life projects.

The social mobility rates observed in Brazil until the early 1980s, sometimes considered unprecedented in many other countries, have changed the landscape of the country, especially with regard to urban-rural ratio (VALLE SILVA; PASTORE, 2000). Since then, a series of studies carried out in the years 1990 and 2000 have helped us to better visualize the dynamics of social stratification in our country. The inertia that defines the dynamics of race relations in Brazil set the tone repeatedly in these results, in addition to showing only residual importance of the slavery past in the analysis of this inequality board.

According to Valverde and Stocco (2011), the educational inequality between blacks and whites seems to have found its tipping point in 2002, as it was the first time since the PNAD began collecting the question of color / race, the difference between schooling rates for blacks and whites was below two years: 1.9. “This fall, which could be interpreted by the more skeptical as anomalous in a historical series in which the difference in schooling between whites and blacks would be crystallized around two years, ended up showing in the following years how the new tendency of this indicator” (ibid., p.150).

According to Valverde and Stocco (idem) “universal access to basic education promoted in the 1990s was undoubtedly beneficial to the black population.” However, they highlighted the fact that in any educational indicator it was possible to identify inversions in positions, with blacks ahead of whites.

Thus, in recent years, there has been a shift in the problematic of racial inequalities in access to education for the diagnosis of the interior of the educational system, since the different experiences experienced by black and white schoolchildren in school have a direct effect on their permanence, progression and performance (VALVERDE; STOCCO, 2011, translated by us).

Social production of normality: bodies blacks and stigmatization

According to UNICEF (2012), racial discrimination is one of the main barriers that young Brazilians face in guaranteeing their right to education. Of the total excluded from school, the majority are black and brown. And the discrimination is manifested not only in the difficulty of access, but also in the continuity of school life. The difference between the average years of study of the black population and average years of study of the whites, which are added to higher repetition rates and dropout among young black seems to show that racial significantly interfere with the performance school education of elementary and middle school students.

Although the primary purpose of Diass (2011) dissertation was not the analysis of the possible links between racial affiliations and school performance, his work entitled “Sem querer você mostra seu preconceito”,3 is very enlightening about the function of the social imaginary of race in the structuring of relations between young students. Looking to understand how racial relations between young blacks and white high school students from a school in the Metropolitan Region of Belo Horizonte, State of Minas Gerais, Vasconcelos observed how these young people meant their relationships and elaborated their conceptions respect for race inside the classroom.

The fact that issues related to racial theme were not the objective of teaching activity, that didn’t prevent that youngsters enrolled the school environment bearing the various representations of racial slant / racialist, sometimes strongly derogatory and even racist. In fact, these representations were marked by a symbolic disadvantage weighed on the black racial groups, especially over those with darker skin tone and / or phenotypic traits of steepest black ancestry (ibid, p. 238).

The conclusion, which came Diass (ditto), showed that the group investigated, and the school as a whole, was configured as a space in which the racial issue was not neutral, enhancing the understanding of young people and school were part of the broader social reality in which race had a social meaning and structured everyday relationships. Although relations of sociability among young people surveyed by Diass (ditto) can not be reduced solely to a racist, expressing oppressive relations based on the belief in the existence of superior races and inferior, most of these relationships were based on the belief about the existence of racial distinctions, derived from the phenotypic distinctions4 (skin color, hair type, lips etc. format). As mentioned the author, are therefore racialized and racialist relations, as is informed by the imaginary linked to the idea of racial affiliations and based on an association between phenotypic and racial origin, helped young people to identify and distinguish young blacks (pardos and blacks) of young white people.

In this sense, while phenotypical differentiations, inscribed in the body, play an important role in the process of identifying and distinguishing persons and groups, different authors of the field of ethnic-racial relations point to the fact that these are exactly these marks, present in black bodies, which become the main elements in the race stigmatization processes. According to Goffman (1978),

“The term stigma will be used in reference to a deeply derogatory attribute. But what is really needed is a language of relations and not of attributes, for an attribute that stigmatizes one can confirm the normality of another, and is therefore neither honorable nor dishonorable. “

In this perspective, some characteristics will only be considered abnormal and, therefore, stigmatized, if there are some characteristics considered normal.

The power devices that determin the normal body adopt a logic that is, at the same time, durable and flexible enough to normalize the differences, among which race is one of the most controlled. The circulation of stereotypes associating black color with exclusion and racial depreciation contributes to the formulation of negative images, as another skin that sticks to the black body (Gomes and Miranda, 2014).

Stigma may be based on physical or social characteristics, either temporary or permanent, but it may prevent people from perceiving in the stigmatized attributes other than those negatively defined. That stigma which come impregnated with derogatory characteristics can have a negative impact on self – image and the individual’s self esteem, causing him to internalize the real social identity (Goffman, 1978, p. 15), loaded with negative attributes, imposed on him by those who are seen, or who sees themselves, as “normal”. “Considering what he may face when entering into a mixed social situation, the stigmatized individual can respond in advance through a defensive layer.” (Idem, 26).

The perpetuation of derogatory images associated with black bodies, taking them as abnormal bodies, comes, even if indirectly, from the scientific racism of the nineteenth century5. Despite the historical dimension, these derogatory imaginary can not be seen only as a reminiscence of the past, as they are routinely updated, either through small talk and exchange of nicknames among ordinary people (JESUS; REIS, 2014), either through the media (ARAUJO, 2000) or the hegemonic school curriculum (GOMES; MIRANDA, 2014). By the way, it were these derogatory imaginary, mentioned repeatedly in the course of the in-depth interviews conducted with youngsters in this research, which led us to think about the links between racial discrimination and daily production of school failure among young black individuals.

Silence and discouragement in the school environment

Fifty-three young people aged between 15 and 17 years, were interviewed in São Paulo; forty-three over the five focal groups and ten throughout the in-depth interviews. Among the fifty-three interviewees, twenty-nine were male and twenty-four female. Twenty-five self declared browns, ten black, thirteen whites, three Indians and two yellow. Among the ten participants of in – depth interviews, from which we selected the ones used in this article, five said they were male and five female and three as browns, two as black, three as white and two as yellow. As mentioned earlier in this article, the ten individual interviews conducted in São Paulo, selected five, all made with black self identified young: three brown and two black.

Initially, young people were invited to perform and then to talk about the importance attached by their families to formal education. Next, they were provoked to talk about the participation of their families throughout their school careers, as well as their expectations regarding school life and an assessment of their own trajectories. In the final part of the interviews, the young people were invited to talk about the barriers that existed along their trajectories, as well as the positive points that enabled them to continue. The testimonies of young people about these dimensions, as well as our reflections on these aspects and their connections with the processes of school exclusion, are published in a recent article.

The statements which were the basis for the preparation of this article were produced during the discussions on barriers to continuity of learning paths and, in a specific way, answering the question: “Have you ever suffered any kind of discrimination or bullying during your school life? “

The first interviewee, Joana, a self-declared brown, who had to leave school to take care of her her younger sister, made ashamed references to factors that interfered with her enthusiasm for further study.

Mediator: And let me ask you in this period you studied, what is your level of enthusiasm to attend school? What was the mood and interest to attend?

Woman: I was in the mood to learn more, because I had no desire to go. I had not.

Mediator: And you told this to the teacher and the Director? And what was it like?

Woman: I told the teacher and the teacher did not do anything and then I no longer spoke about it.

Mediator: And what was your reaction?

Woman: What could I do? I kept quiet.

Asked about the type of cursing directed at her, the young woman replied that her colleagues “would not keep me quiet and kept cursing me. (…). A lot of nicknames, these things, which I do not like. (…) Calling me fat, those things. “

The dialogue reproduced below, realized with Carlos6 , a young self declared black, 16 year-old school drop-out and, at the time of interview, sold candy in the streets of São Paulo, adequately illustrates some of the existing links between the “zoações” stigmatizing and which the young man himself called “discouragement with school”.

Mediator: Thinking about your school days, what is your level of enthusiasm for attending school?

Man: I went to school every day, like, I woke up and went to school. And in school I arrived there, got my notebook, put on the table, sit in the background and did nothing and that was it. It came at the time of the Physical Education, I played soccer and went up. There was at this time that the teacher called my father there and my father said … It was the first day that I got spanked from my father. After that, the faults began. And I started to miss and I ended up repeating the year. And then in the last year I repeated a year and then two years. And then I left.

Mediator: But in light of this provocation that the boys did?

Man: Also, you know, because I was .. I suffered bullying too. When the person saw me, they called me names and when I came in the room people were making fun of me. I was doing homework, sitting and then I just kept quiet. And then I would become friends. If anyone kept going I would say to the teacher that I would hit that person. I’ll hit him if he continues, I’ll hit him. And she did not say anything and he continued … I got up and hit him. And then she put me out and reprimend me.

At one point in the interview, clearly embarrassed, interviewee reveals what he said appears as one of the main reasons for joke and bullying: “The boys were making fun of me a lot because of my disability. I operated the foot, and there was a time when I was walking with the foot up (…) I went to school because they sent me, but, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t go. “

Both Joan’s and Carlos’ testimonies shows as bodies seen as (ab)normal, as non-complying to those taken as normal, are transformed in the classroom spaces, but also outside of them, as prime targets of jokes. Even if inserted in peer relationships, imagined by many to be horizontal, the repeated jokes addressed to subjects with bodies seen as abnormal play in this context a dual role: on the one hand, to strengthen the abnormality of bodies and subjects outside the box, and on the other hand, to reinforce the apparent normality of white, lean and healthy bodies. In this aspect, calls our attention the fact that, among the other five young people interviewed in São Paulo, three self declarad as white and two yellow, despite the constant references to teasing and joke; these jokes were addressed to third parties. When they mentioned the situations in which they themselves were the targets, in none of them was no mention that they were heading to their ethnic and racial affiliations or even their bodily features.

The testimony of the third interviewee, Lidiane, self-declared brown and, because of her pregnancy, a school drop-out, reveals a kind of everyday discrimination that mixes dimensions of race and gender, in addition to reinforcing racial and sexual stereotypes associated with black women .

Mediator: You’ve experienced, you noticed any kind of discrimination in the school environment?

Woman: Yes, I have witnessed a lot of discrimination of girls. The boys had more prejudice of the girls, they called the hard-haired girls, this and that. I’ve seen discrimination with a girl of color. They called her various names, monkey, go out nigger. I’ve never suffered this, but, I’ve seen discrimination. I also have seen a lot of bullying. They teased the girl as hell in school … she would come crying, sometimes. I’ve seen that a lot.

Mediator: And how was the relationship that the direction of teachers in this situation?

Woman: It was always the same to me. In that part, it was not much use, because it was always the same thing. She called the girl’s father and the girl’s father who was making fun of her. It was no use because the father was yealing at the girl, and the girl would look at and say: my father is mad at me because of you, tomorrow you will see, it will be worse. It was no use, so it always went on. That’s what always happened, and I believe it goes on in schools ‘til this day.

Besides the recurrence use of name-calling and derogatory nicknames in school life, institutional silence in the face of complaints draws our attention. Thirty years after the publication of the classic “Silence: a pedagogical ritual in favor of racial discrimination: a study of racial discrimination as a factor of selectivity in the public elementary school – 1st to 4th grade”, the work of Luiz Alberto Oliveira Gonçalves is still contemporary, in the sense that silence at school due to racial discrimination, while silencing whistleblowers, enables the perpetuation of discriminatory rituals (GONÇALVES, 1985).

The testimony of Maria, the fourth enterviewed, besides reinforcing elements already present in other interviews, as the institutional silence and the presence of stereotypes associated with abnormal seen bodies, brings out elements not previously mentioned. Self declared black and also evaded from school, this young woman, who although resent racist insults directed at them by other colleagues, also admits his performances as offending.

Mediator: You have witnessed, experienced or seen situations of discrimination at school?

Woman: Yes, and still happens. Because at my school, in my class, there’s a girl that is chubby, she’s fat. And people have multiple nicknames. Myself, I will not say that I am right, because I am not. No one is right, I am human. In the old days, I judged people by their appearance, so I would see and say “I did not like that person”. I was like this, nowadays I’m not. I look and try to talk to the person to see if I get along with the person or not. But, there is a lot of bullying at school.

Mediator: And have you experienced, or has been the victim of a situation of discrimination?

Woman: Several times! Because I’m black, many people judge me for my color. I see a lot of that, because there are people that come to you and tease: oh black, but, you see that the person by the way they look at you, the fact of expressing it, you see that the person is not kidding. Because you’re black, or because you’re white, because you’re German … in those respects, yes.

Mediator: And how did you deal with this, at the same time being a victim and at the same be the author of such …?

Woman: So, today I can read that fact well. I do not know how to explain how I feel, I’ll be honest. Sometimes I get really annoyed that I’m black. I’m not prejudiced by my color, but because I’m black people think: you’re never going to be nobody, that’s the reality. People, because you’re black, think so. She is black, she is poor. It’s just what the black people has for them: “he’s from favela, he’s not going to be nobody, he’s going to be a thief, or he’s going to be a crackhead”, that’s it, so it’s annoying because the fact that I’m black does not say who I am or that I’m going to be a thief, or that I’m going to be this or that, because there are a lot of people that are white, and only God knows how they’re like, so it really hurts.

For Ribeiro (2016), young people, when engaging in games of verbal offenses,7 can play different roles – sometimes as the offenders, sometimes as the offended – which would demonstrate that even the targets of name-calling young people do not participate in these situations only passively. However, while recognizing the possibility to temporarily assume the role of offenders, looking submiss other colleagues because of racial belonging, sexual orientation or physical, I believe that the strength and the persistence of social representations8 about these subjects tend to prevent or hardner the individual performances of stigmatized youth from being able to break out of the negative social meanings attributed to their own body and racial belonging. The above example, as well as the repeated daily situations in which we are faced with stigmatized subjects verbally assaulting other stigmatized subjects, reinforces the perception that the social production of the abnormality, especially racism, is configured as a system of oppression and systematic production of discriminations and inequalities that, even allowing these subjects seen as abnormal to operate this system, do not make them the beneficiaries of this system.

What can I hear after turning off the recorders?

The fifth interviewee, Fábio, a 17-year-old self-declared brown and sophomore high school student, spent much of the conversation describing his school misadventures.

Mediator: The first thing so I asked you and you answered smiling, then I wanted to understand this as well, if it is good, but necessary school studies?

Man: It’s boring to study, but it is necessary because it is something for life, and if we do not study today, tomorrow we will need, and will have chase after it, so it was needed.

Mediator: And why is it bad? It’s boring?

Man: It’s annoying because you live there in the world is pretty straight forward and many things happen at school that, I at least, suffered a lot in school and did not like going to school.

Mediator: Why?

Man: Because many people does stupid jokes, because like I don’t like to be horsing around, I’m quiet in class, and people think I’m stupid, start throwing things at me, that kind of joke I do not like.

Mediator: And what about the presence, for example, of teachers who are in the class as well?

Man: They pretend not to see, at least in my school. They arrive and give the lessons, sit and stay there still, so I see them the same way, I think they feel this way. Everything that happens in the class does not make any difference for them.

Mediator: And what happened last year had some impact in your decision to drop-out off school?

Man: A lot, because I realized that I was not able to defend myself and that also I couldn’t call anyone to defend me, because they knew people from other places and, doing that, I could even harm a person of my family.

At the end of the interview transcribed above, with the recorder already disconnected, Fábio finally revealed, what, according to him, was the main motivator of repeated insults and persecutions. Finally he said: “I am homosexual.”

I remained impassive; before the surprised eyes of Fábio, who, I think, expected habitual disapproval. We continue talking; with he now showing himself more relaxed. In the final part of the interview, Fábio also revealed that his misadventures in the school were added to the conflicts lived among the members of the family, linked to the Christian Church of Brazil. According to the young man, his brothers had not spoken to him for many months because of his sexual orientation. In spite of the sadness that this distancing caused him, the young man affirmed that the attitude of his brothers had become one of the reasons that motivated him to continue studying and to graduate: “I will show to them that I deserve respect!”

We ended the interview. I, sensibly bothered by the situation, stripped myself of the neutrality and the expected detachment from an interviewer, and finally said: “In my opinion, your brothers do not deserve the dedication of your school success, I think you should study for yourself; it is you who should deserve this realization. “ We concluded the conversation and said goodbye.

Fábio went down the stairs and went to receive the box of candy that we were distributing at the end of the interviews, as a thank you for participating in the research. What was my surprise when I arrived at the support room and received from the hands of Fernanda Vasconcelos, responsible for observing the focus groups, the box of candy that would be destined for Fabio. According to Fernanda, Fábio told her: “Give the interviewer the candy box, he deserves it. No one has ever listened to me like he did.”

Final considerations

One of the consequences of the naturalized use of racialist/racist stereotypes in a post-enslaved society such as Brazil, which has not yet completely abolished a series of values and forms of thinking molded in slavery, is to transform abnormal bodies into laughable things and potentially despicable. In this context, while racial stereotypes are used as a way to naturalize the subalternity of certain bodies, the silencing focuses on the denial of the debate about race in Brazil and, consequently, on the possibilities of denaturalizing these subalternity processes. Thus, while Brazilian racism produces racial stereotypes in the form of abnormal bodies, it silences the denunciations of racism itself, as well as its devastating consequences. By silencing the denunciations, school institutions are also silent about racism itself, and as a consequence, it is silent about the means of fighting it. After all, how to fight that which one does not recognize it’s existence? Thus, by allowing the production and reproduction of racial stereotypes, and silencing the denunciations, taking them as non-existent, school institutions undermine the possibilities of these subjects, who have bodies seen as abnormal, unable to convert or affirm themselves in subjects different from what is stated by the stereotypes attributed to them.

By silencing themselves in front of racial, gender, sexuality, and other forms of discrimination, school institutions also contribute to the perpetuation of intra and extracurricular inequalities, even if quietly and shadowed, determining the production of unequal educational and occupational destinations.


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1The exceptions were the cities of Belém and Fortaleza, where four focus groups were held in each city.

2The option to use in-depth interviews in the present research was oriented both by the qualitative nature of the research and by the potential of this research technique to incorporate the values, intentionality and meanings of the actions of young people aged 15 to 17, understood as a group in particular. In addition to the potential to capture values, intentions and meanings, the interviews were used in the expectation of approaching real life experiences of young adolescents that will directly and indirectly illustrate the reality of adolescents excluded from school and the causes and consequences of their situations of exclusion.

3According to the author, the title of the work “refers to a speech fragment of one of the young students who integrated this research. This native statement dialogues with other lines of young people who also expressed this kind of ‘finding’ in different ways, sometimes even in other words, during the discussions provided by the Discussion Groups held with the young students of Class 3B. “

4 When we refer to the phenotype in the discussions about race relations, we are referring to the observable characteristics of an individual, such as: skin color, hair type, body structure, etc. The phenotype results from the expression of the organism genes, the influence of environmental factors and the possible interaction between the two. The genotype, in turn, are the hereditary information that a person inherits and that are contained in their genome. The interaction between genotype and phenotype can be summarized as follows: (genotype + environment → phenotype).

5In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the racialist theories of Count de Gobineau and the evolutionist theses of Charles Darwin exerted a major influence on the works of important representatives of Brazilian social thought such as Silvio Romero, Raimundo Nina Rodrigues and Euclides da Cunha. These, therefore, exerted great influence also in the public policies, mainly the educational ones, put into practice throughout the First Brazilian Republic. According to Moura (1991), the great narratives about Brazil written until the middle of the nineteenth century tended to associate the social condition of subalternized groups (Indians, blacks and mulattos) with their (imagined) ontological characteristics – thus proceeding to a naturalization of their condition, which were explained by intellectual inferiority, indolence and incapacity for work.

6All names used in this research are fictitious.

7The games of verbal offenses are tense and sometimes forceful interactions that engage those involved in conflicting relationships, suggesting that positive and negative reciprocities can build conflicting sociabilities that do not strictly imply “victims,” “aggressors”, and “spectators,” or even in pathological relationships, even if, as Cornel West (1994) points out, there are subjects who are socially and sociologically victimized, who need to face political subordination through what is nowadays identified as an Agency.

8For Bourdieu (1998), it is in social practice that one can perceive the power of social representations. The words spoken in ordinary and / or extraordinary social relations have the power and the efficacy of producing, reproducing or reformulating reality, especially when we consider who speaks them. Representations, therefore, have the force of instituting reality, either through the construction of objective realities, perceptible in everyday life, or through systems of perception, which by being socially accepted and legitimated, end up gaining status as objective reality, yet which are false or illusory representations.

Received: August 15, 2016; Accepted: January 31, 2017

Contact: Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), Av. Presidente Antônio Carlos, nº 6627 – Faculdade de Educação, Sala 1521 – Pampulha, Belo Horizonte|MG|Brasil, CEP 31.270-901


Doctor in Education by Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). Professor and researcher of the Postgraduate Program in Education, Knowledge and Inclusion da FAE/UFMG and member of the Programa Ações Afirmativas na UFMG coordination. E-mail: E-mail:<>.

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